Across China: Rising North China leopard population reflects wildlife protection success-Xinhua

Across China: Rising North China leopard population reflects wildlife protection success

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-03-07 17:59:30

TAIYUAN, March 7 (Xinhua) -- A healthy North China leopard was recently spotted in the wild in Shanxi Province, further confirming the increasing population and expanded activity range of this rare species.

The North China leopard is one of the world's nine subspecies of leopards. Its population is mainly distributed in northern China, with the total population across the country estimated to be fewer than 400.

In the past, the North China leopard was widely distributed in the Taihang Mountain area. However, today, populations are fragmented, with each cluster containing fewer than 50 individuals, facing a high risk of extinction in certain regions due to poaching, environmental changes and human interference.

As a flagship species in the forest ecosystem, the rare leopard has specific habitat requirements. Fortunately, recent population trends indicate steady restoration, showcasing encouraging progress in the local ecological environment.

Thanks to a series of ecological protection initiatives in China, such as the Three-North Shelterbelt Forest Program (TSFP), a large-scale afforestation project, and the natural forest resource protection project, the ecological quality of the Loess Plateau, home to Shanxi Province, has greatly improved.

The apex predator of the local ecosystem, these leopards have been increasingly spotted in Lyuliang Mountain, Taihang Mountain, and other nearby mountain ranges in recent years.

In 2019, North China leopards were spotted in Chengde in Hebei Province, only 100 km north of Beijing.

Another key factor contributing to the continuous rise in North China leopard population is the harmony between humans and wildlife, according to Song Dazhao, one of the founders of the Chinese Felid Conservation Alliance (CFCA), a non-profit organization specializing in the protection of wild cats in China.

With the expansion of human activities, wildlife habitats are inevitably encroached upon, Song explained, noting that in some cases, local villagers have resorted to retaliatory hunting against wildlife due to past instances of predation on their livestock.

To help address the problem, the CFCA launched a project named "Buy Steak for Leopards" in Shanxi in 2015.

"When the leopard faces the threat of retaliatory hunting, ecological compensation is the most direct way to solve these problems and reduce the risk of such hunting," Song said. The project not only protects the property of local villagers but also provides sanctuary for the North China leopard.

In order to further strengthen biodiversity protection, Shanxi Province, where the North China leopard is frequently sighted, is striving to enhance the diversity, stability and sustainability of its ecosystem.

The provincial department of ecology and environment plans to establish and improve the province's coordination mechanism for biodiversity protection, and work with other related departments to promote the comprehensive protection of ecosystems, biological species and genetic resources, thus accelerating the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature.